Text: John 1:43-51
Date: Epiphany II + 1/14/18
In this year of St. Mark’s Gospel, we rejoice that his is the shortest of the four. We rejoice primarily because it gives us a chance to hear also from St. John’s Gospel. The two go together for many reasons. We notice for instance that neither Mark nor John have an historical account of Christmas, the birth of Christ. John begins with an extended prologue quickly moving to John the Baptist and, as we hear today, the calling of the first disciples. So does Mark. Our Gospel from the first chapter of John this morning takes us, as does his entire work, deeper into not only the history but the spiritual meaning of what it means to have faith in the Son of God.
You remember that last Sunday as we celebrated the baptism of our Lord we pondered the mystery of what it means that Jesus was not only baptized for Himself, but Jesus was baptized for you. That is, in His baptism He put into action His ministry of the forgiveness of sins, taking away the sin of the world. We noted as we were reminded of the first day of the original creation of all things in Genesis one, that in the baptism of our Lord our baptism is the beginning of making of us a new creation. By baptism our old self was crucified, died and was buried into Christ’s death, and the creation of a new self is raised in Christ’s resurrection. From now on we are to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ.
It is a happy coincidence that this is also the theme of the beginning of John’s Gospel. His repeated phrase, “the next day,” when you count them are six in number. John means to tell of the new creation of the new Israel of which you have become a member in your baptism.
Now, we know that God has called directly those man to serve as His prophets and apostles. “Samuel! Samuel!” we heard the Lord say. And today we hear Jesus say to Philip, “Follow me.” St. John wants us to identify with Jesus the mission of the Holy Church. For, as John will remind us later, Jesus says to all, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). This is true of all as our sinful nature has made us blind and dead to God on our own. It is our slavery to sin that causes us to want to stay as far away from God as possible. So it is only as God comes to us to break through our blindness and deadness with the light of His call to life.
But whereas God called His prophets and apostles directly, God calls everyone to discipleship and salvation indirectly. Notice all the seeking and finding in today’s Gospel. Jesus found Philip. Philip found Nathanael, saying, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.” And he invited Nathanael to “come and see.” So does Christ’s mission continue through the ages to this day as the hymn says, “Calling the young and old to rest, But above all the souls distressed, Longing for rest everlasting.” The same hymn has us sing, “We are God’s house of living stones, Built for His own habitation.” It has us pray, “Grant, then, O God, Your will be done, That, when the church bells are ringing, Many in saving faith may come Where Christ His message is bringing” (LSB 645). For it is Christ’s continued mission through us, as the apostle Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” Entrusting to us the message! “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Now people are not just to take our word for it, however, though too many think you can just talk people into believing if you explain faith well enough or somehow make them “feel” God’s call. Philip found Nathanael. But he did not say, “We have found Jesus.” Rather he called Him, “him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Still, at first Nathanael questioned them because at Christmas we do not sing, “O Little Town of Nazareth”! No where do the scriptures say the Christ is to come from Nazareth. Nathanael’s question was not flippant sarcasm but surprise, “Something good can come out of Nazareth!” he said. In the face of his doubt, however, Philip simply invites him, “Come and see.” We don’t talk about how much we believe that Jesus is the Savior. We invite people to some and see and hear for themselves.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and called him “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” In these words, Jesus speaks of all who come to Him and follow Him as the new Israel, the new people of God. Nathanael calls Jesus “the Son of God” and “the King of Israel.” He is not speaking of any political king but the Lord Himself as it says in Zephaniah 3:15,
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil. (Zeph 3:15)
And even more clearly in Isaiah 44,
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.” (Is 44:6).
So will Jesus be welcomed at His triumphant entry into Jerusalem for the last time, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” (John 12:13). So will he be designated “the King of the Jews” above His head on the cross. So are Philip, Andrew, Peter, Nathanael and all to see God Himself when looking at Jesus of Nazareth!
Finally, Jesus says you will see even greater things. It is as if John has Jesus stop and “break the fourth wall” as they call it in the movie business, turning and looking directly in the camera at each person who ever hears this account, saying, “Amen, amen, I say to all of you, you all will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Like Jacob’s vision of old, all are to see heaven opened, not closed, and the angels ministering around God’s throne, a vision of our eternal dwelling.
The Lord has called, the Lord still calls you, calls you to follow Him, calls you to life in His name.